In a new blog post and accompanying video, Google explains how it keeps user-created reviews on Google Maps free of fraud and abuse. Like many platforms that handle large-scale reviews, Google says it uses a combination of automated machine learning systems and human action.
The details come amid increasing scrutiny of user reviews on sites such as Google Maps and Yelp, where businesses have struggled to implement COVID-19-related health and safety measures, including masks and vaccines. requirements) and negative reviews, these measures are often beyond their control. Other comments criticized businesses for allegedly causing them to contract COVID-19, or for not maintaining normal business hours during the global pandemic.
Earlier today, Yelp reported that it removed more than 15,500 reviews that violated its COVID-19 content guidelines between April and December last year, a 161% increase from the same period in 2020. In total, Yelp said it removed more than 70,200 reviews from nearly 1,300 pages in 2021, many of which were caused by the so-called “review bombing,” in which coordinated reviews are submitted by users who haven’t actually visited a business.
Google explained that every review posted on Google Maps is checked by its machine learning system, which has been trained on the company’s content policies to weed out abusive or misleading reviews. The system is trained to examine the content of individual reviews, but it also seeks out broader algorithms — such as sudden surges of one- or five-star reviews — from both the account itself and other reviews about the business.
For content flagged by end-users and businesses themselves, the human review comes into play, Google said. Violating comments can be deleted, and in more serious cases, user accounts can be suspended and legal consequences.
We found that we needed both the nuanced understanding provided by humans and the scale provided by machines to help us moderate the content we contributed, wrote Ian Reed, Google’s product lead for user-generated content. This is an interesting look at the steps Google has taken to keep Maps reviews available.